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Bath miss chance to start 2024 top of Premiership table after loss at Leicester

By PA
Leicester Tigers v Bath – Gallagher Premiership – Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium

Bath missed the opportunity to begin 2024 at the top of the Premiership table as they crashed to a convincing 35-22 defeat to Leicester before a sold-out Mattioli Woods Welford Road with an attendance of nearly 26,000.

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The defeat was not unexpected as Bath took the surprise decision to rest many of their leading lights, with Finn Russell, Ollie Lawrence, Beno Obano and regular skipper Ben Spencer among those absent from their line-up.

With nothing gained from the match, Bath finished the year in fourth position, two points behind leaders Northampton.

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Stormers head coach John Dobson on Ruhan Nel’s knee injury

Leicester took full advantage to score five tries. These came from Matt Rogerson, Mike Brown, George Martin and James Cronin with Handre Pollard adding four conversions. There was also a penalty try award.

Louis Schreuder and replacements Louie Hennessey and Ewan Richards scored Bath’s tries, with Orlando Bailey kicking a penalty and a conversion. Sam Harris also added a conversion.

It took Bath less than four minutes to take the lead. On halfway, Pollard’s telegraphed inside pass to Freddie Steward was intercepted by Schreuder, who had the pace to hold off the cover on a 50-metre run to the line.

Tigers drew level when they turned down a kick at goal in favour of an attacking line-out and it paid dividends when Rogerson forced his way over.

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A burst from Bath wing Tom de Glanville saw him threaten the try-line but it was the hosts who scored next when a well-judged pass from Tom Whiteley gave Brown the chance to outflank the defence and score.

On the half-hour Bath captain GJ van Velze was sin-binned with the home side capitalising immediately when Cronin powered over from short range.

Three minutes later, Leicester scored their bonus-point try when Martin finished off a succession of forward drives. Pollard added his fourth conversion before Bailey responded with a penalty to leave his side trailing 28-10 at the interval.

A minute after the restart, Van Velze returned but it made no difference as three minutes later his side conceded a penalty try after collapsing Tigers’ line-out drive with the culprit Jaco Coetzee sent to the sin-bin.

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Leicester did not take advantage of Coetzee’s absence, with no addition to the scoreboard, and they relaxed further when international forwards Martin, Tommy Reffell, Jasper Wiese and Julian Montoya were all replaced in quick succession.

The game fizzled out as a spectacle but spirited Bath earned some reward when a break from Max Ojomoh set up a try for Hennessey.

Richards soon added another but Leicester went into the new year happy after recording a double over their opponents, having triumphed earlier in the season at the Rec by a single point.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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